Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, has a new musical talent, the company announced Tuesday.
“Today, we’re making Alexa even smarter with an all-new feature that lets you play music synchronized on multiple Echo devices to provide room-filling music throughout your home,” said Amazon Alexa Vice President Toni Reid.
Setting up the syncing is easy. Using the Alexa app, you give a group of devices a name — “first floor,” for instance. Then you can play music through all the devices simultaneously by saying something like “Alexa, play Allman Brothers first floor.”
Alexa supports music streams from Amazon Music, Tunein, iHeartRadio and Pandora. Spotify and SiriusXM support is expected soon.
The feature is available now for owners of Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show devices in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.
Amazon on Tuesday also announced the immediate availability of new APIs that allow any connected speaker to tap into Alexa’s multiroom functionality.
For example, if you had three Echo Dots and two Alexa Voice Service-enabled devices in your “first floor” group, you’d be able to synchronize music through all five devices.
Among the brands working with Amazon to make their systems Alexa-friendly are Sonos, Bose, Sound United and Samsung.
“Alexa set the standard for voice in smart homes, so working with Amazon to bring voice control to Sonos for the first time was an obvious choice,” said Antoine Leblond, vice president of software at Sonos.
“This has been a close collaboration from the beginning” he continued, “as we’ve worked together to combine the magic of Alexa with the seamless multiroom audio capabilities that Sonos pioneered.”
With multiroom music synchronization, Amazon is bringing its Echo products in line with Google Home, which already supports that feature, noted Jonathan Collins, a research director at ABI Research.
“Google Home is the only current challenger to Alexa’s grip in the smart home voice control market,” he told TechNewsWorld.
However, Google is a distant challenger.
Amazon’s share of the voice control speaker market is 82 percent, compared to Google’s 24 percent, according to a survey Edison Research released in June.
Echo seems to have won the early battle for the hearts and minds of consumers.
When asked which device better fit their lifestyle, 17 percent of the 2,200 adult participants in a recent Morning Consult survey chose the Amazon Echo. Another 12 percent chose the Echo Dot. That compared to 11 percent for Apple’s yet-to- be-released HomePod and 11 percent for Google Home.
“Echo is the segment leader in terms of both market share and third-party hardware support. This move potentially ensures the first and eventually expands the last,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“Amazon is the market maker for the segment. The others are slipstreaming Amazon at the moment,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“Amazon also licenses out their platform to others,” Enderle noted, “which allows it to work more broadly in the long term than any of the hardware-only solutions, like Apple’s.”
The combination of multiroom and third-party speaker support could serve as a bulwark against Apple, which will be launching its HomePod speaker at the end of the year. During the introduction of that product, Apple emphasized the quality of the speaker for music, aligning it with the likes of Sonos.
“This is a defensive move on the part of third parties like Sonos and Amazon to get out in front of what Apple has positioned as a superior music system,” suggested Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insight for the Local Search Association.
All the players in the market have one thing in common: They want to use voice control to drive consumers to core businesses, whether that be selling music or anything else.
“That’s why the devices have to appeal to as wide a range of consumers as possible with their feature sets and price points,” ABI’s Collins said. “The greater the adoption, the more additional value that can be driven to the vendors’ core services and revenues streams.”
The stakes could be very high for companies jockeying for position in this market.
“If Amazon gets embedded in the home and is able to hold off Google and Apple, then it can be the gateway for this ecosystem of devices that are voice-controlled — everything from TVs to light bulbs,” LSA’s Sterling told TechNewsWorld. “Then, suddenly, it’s at the center of all this data that it can use in various ways.”